Padres counting on Pham to be part of lineup’s ‘heartbeat’

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              San Diego Padres' Tommy Pham hits an RBI single during the fifth inning of a spring training baseball game against the San Francisco Giants Sunday, March 1, 2020, in Peoria, Ariz. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
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PEORIA, Ariz. (AP) — Tommy Pham’s cleats clacked on the sidewalk as he jogged between on-field batting practice and hitting in the cage.

No walking until he returned to the San Diego Padres‘ clubhouse to get ready for Tuesday’s game against the Milwaukee Brewers. Pham is all business at spring training as he works his way back to full strength from soreness in his side.

Pham has high expectations of himself, as do the Padres. New to the Padres after being traded from the Tampa Bay Rays in the offseason, Pham is ticketed for an everyday role in the San Diego outfield even though he’s been slowed by his injury.

“Everything has to improve. My swing, it’s just working on some stuff to kind of make me a more consistent hitter,” Pham said.

Pham, a career .277 hitter who hit 21 home runs, drove in 68 runs and tied a career high with 25 stolen bases with the Rays last season, struck out three times in his spring debut for the Padres last Saturday. He went 1-for-3 with an RBI in his second game Sunday.

Pham is also coming off an elbow ligament injury from last season that has him on a throwing program. He served as the designated hitter Tuesday, hoping he’s cleared soon to play in the outfield.

“Defensively, I need to continue to work on my jumps, and throwing-wise, I’m building back up my arm strength and my distance,” Pham said. “Running-wise, it seems like you can run as much as you want in the offseason, then you come out here and put on cleats and run on grass and start cutting and everything, it’s just a different kind of shape.”

Pham acknowledges he has a long way to go with a little over three weeks until opening day. With hustle and speed a big part of his game, Pham is working hard to be ready.

“This game kind of rewards you for working hard and giving effort,” he said. “I strongly believe in that.”

Padres manager Jayce Tingler said he’s looking for Pham to be himself, which means being a disciplined hitter, swinging aggressively, running hard down the line when he puts the ball in play and being a threat on the bases.

Pham walked twice Tuesday, swiping his first base of the spring with a headfirst slide and scoring after going from first to third base on an error.

“To be just part of the heartbeat that we’re looking for our lineup to be, one through eight,” Tingler said. “Defensively, I expect him to get off the ball, have good jumps, go gap to gap. The reason I expect that is because that’s who he is.”

Pham is part of a veteran-laden Padres lineup, the new guy who turns 32 on March 8. He hit second in the order Tuesday, ahead of Manny Machado, Eric Hosmer, Wil Myers and Brian Dozier.

“We’re trying to flip the page and turn the corner and start winning over here,” he said.

NOTE: Padres SS Fernando Tatis Jr. missed his third straight day of spring training with the flu. “I don’t know when he’s going to be back. It’s a sensitive deal,” Tingler said. “We’re making sure he’s taken care of and, at the same time, the bug is going around this complex.” .